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$10,000 Great Depression-era bill sells for $480,000 at auction

What's a $10,000 bill worth to you? To some auction goers, the answer is hundreds of thousands of dollars.
$10,000 Great Depression-era bill sells for $480,000 at auction
Posted at 7:44 PM, Sep 21, 2023

How much would you spend on purchasing money itself?

Though it may sound a bit turned around, that's what recent auction attendees pondered as they bid on a rare, $10,000 bill dating back to the Great Depression. And the answer to the spending question for many there was ... a lot.

The bill dated 1934 ended up selling for $480,000 at the Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction in Dallas Friday, beating the previous record price of $384,000 set in Sept. 2020 for this type of bill, according to CNN.

The Federal Reserve note was certified by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) and was graded to be in Exceptional Paper Quality, auction house Heritage Auctions said.

The fact the bill — which features then-President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase's face — sold for $470,000 above its real price wasn’t a surprise to Heritage Auctions, which said there is consistent interest in banknotes with larger denominations. 

"The $10,000 trails only the $100,000 gold certificate issued in 1934, and of the 18 examples graded by PMG, this example is tied for the highest-graded," said Dustin Johnston, vice president of currency at Heritage Auctions.

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PMG has only graded four other small-sized $10,000 Federal Reserve notes and only five higher, "so this is an absolute prize that will command a share of the spotlight in its new collection home," Johnston said.

The $10,000 bill was the highest denomination of U.S. currency to every circulate publicly. A $100,000 bill was issued, but it was only used to transfer funds between Federal Reserve Banks, according to the Museum of American Finance.

But in 1969, the $10,000 bill and any other denominations $500 or higher were taken out of circulation due to lack of use, though this particular note at the recent auction was never in circulation, Heritage Auctions said. Since 1969, the $100 bill has been the highest denomination note issued in the U.S.

These rare, higher bills and coins, however, can still be found at auctions like the recent Dallas event. Other items sold included a rare 1899 $20 gold coin sold for $468,000 and a $5,000 bill for $300,000.

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